Say what you see Pat Nevin, say what you don’t Danny Mills

A view of world cup commentators from an Arsenal perspective.

By Rob Lackey

I travel a lot, consequently I usually watch games with foreign commentary or often listen in the car to 5 live.  5 Live can truly suck when it comes to football commentary, but often excels in almost all other areas.

I was driving back from the airport last night listening to the France-Switzerland game, covered by Simon Brotherton and Pat Nevin, hoping to kill a few hours, but deep down expecting to have to turn off the radio at some point in disappointment.  How wrong was I? Not only was it a cracking game, but Simon and Pat made it really come alive with enthusiasm and genuine insight.  They were full praise where earned, and criticism where deserved.

Not only that, but Pat Nevin was bewitched by a certain muscular, powerful, incisive forward, with the skills to match, a player he named his man of the match; a player that whilst undoubtedly had the skill when he joined the premier league, now had the physicality to match, won every header and bossed the Swiss defence.  No snide backhanded Arsenal abuse regarding Djourou and Senderos, just great enthusiasm for a player at the top of his game.  Thanks Mr Nevin, tonight you earned your corn.

The next segment, hosted by Mark Chapman, with Neil Ashton, Tim Vickery and Danny Mills was a bit of a wash up on what went wrong for England, and there some valid comments, and the usual stark ravings. Neil and Tim (who I’ve been especially impressed with this World Cup) had some intelligent comments, however it appeared (allegedly) that Mr Mills had not taken his medication.

Not Roy’s fault with tactics or team – he was pressurised to change the team and tactics by the media and fans; ignoring that at 66 Mr Hodgson perhaps knows his own mind , and with his CV is not going to bow to outside pressure.  And if he did bow to pressure, he needs to walk anyway.

English players don’t want the ball and can’t hold onto it and until they do like Spain we’re never going to get there (Spain, who are on the way home).  What about Jack someone asked, but no, he’s not match fit, as he talked over anyone who’s opinion did not suit the FA Panel chip in his head.  What about the Southampton or Arsenal players I thought?, they were quite keen to keep possession of that round thing, but no, we don’t produce those sort of players.

Our leagues are awash with foreigners, stopping any decent players emerging, so Roy had nothing to work with, ignoring that Costa Rica and Uruguay had mediocre at best teams, but actually used tactics.

Man for man, Uruguay and Italy were far superior to us which is why then won.  Really? Stop ferret face and you stop Uruguay; you know, that bloke who was top scorer in the premier league that they had ALL played against this season – only there appeared to be no plan to mark him.

There was more, but thankfully I reached home before I head butted the prehistoric AM radio to death in my ancient Hilux.  Yes I was tired, and yes I had just been served up Radio equivalent of Brew Dog Tactical Nuclear Penguin before being handed the Mr Mill’s Kofola enema, but still, is it that unreasonable to expect a level of connection to reality from those who my licence fee is paying?

I truly weep for the future when blinkered, ignorant, poorly thought out half baked theories are touted around by those not fit to wash the jockstraps of the great managers and players of our time. Theories that become strategies delivered by those of minor or average at best talents, yet this is what the FA are serving up to us via their panel of experts for the future of our game.

And while I’m at it, we’re out of the World Cup because we turned up with no tactics, and no ball winners on the pitch (except Danny Welbeck it seems), and didn’t bother protecting the crapest defence in generations.  No we didn’t have the team to win it, but neither do Costa Rica, but at least they’ll go home with dignity and respect.

And Roy, don’t you dare injure Jack or Chambo in the last pointless game.

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22 Replies to “Say what you see Pat Nevin, say what you don’t Danny Mills”

  1. Italy and Uruguay totally outplayed England and still lost to much fitter and fresher Costa Rica. I think England will be humiliated in their last match. Their arrogance and lack of respect towards opponents will be their undoing unless they changed their foundation from the core.

  2. @ Rob , nice read , thanks . Do hope that Roy Hodgson show that old bulldog spirit and play the same team . May be third time lucky ?
    Let the press have the team that they have chosen collectively as their best option . Let the chips fall as they may . If there IS going to be blood in the streets, then why not theirs too ?

  3. @ Rob – Your article reminded me of this unfortunate tale ……

    An Irish Miracle

    Murphy drops some buttered toast on the kitchen floor and it lands butter-side-up.
    He looks down in astonishment, for he knows that it’s a law of nature of the universe that buttered toast always falls butter-down.

    So he rushes round to the presbytery to fetch Father Flanagan. He tells the priest that a miracle has occurred in his kitchen. But he won’t say what it is, so he asks Fr. Flanagan to come and see it with his own eyes. He leads Fr.Flanagan into the kitchen and asks him what he sees on the floor.
    “Well,” says the priest, “it’s pretty obvious. Someone has dropped some buttered toast on the floor and then, for some reason, they flipped it over so that the butter was on top.”

    “No, Father, I dropped it and it landed like that!” exclaimed Murphy

    “Oh my Lord,” says Fr. Flanagan, “dropped toast never falls with the butter side up. It’s a mir…… Wait… it’s not for me to say it’s a miracle. I’ll have to report this matter to the Bishop and he’ll have to deal with it. He’ll send some people round; to interview you, take photos, etc.”

    A thorough investigation is conducted, not only by the archdiocese but by scientists sent over from the Curia in Rome. No expense is spared. There is great excitement in the town as everyone knows that a miracle will bring in much need tourism revenue. Then, after 8 long weeks and with great fanfare, the Bishop announces the final ruling.

    “It is certain that some kind of an extraordinary event took place in Murphy’s kitchen, quite outside the natural laws of the universe. Yet the Holy See must be very cautious before ruling a miracle. All other explanations must be ruled out.

    Unfortunately, in this case, it has been declared ‘No Miracle’ because they think that Murphy may have buttered the toast on the wrong side!”

  4. Great post.

    I am starting to blame the academies and there needs for possession football whose sole point is to not lose the ball.

    We are producing identikit footballers who can pass and move but can’t produce a piece of individual flair if their life depended on it.

  5. Just hoping that rouy doesn’t select either of our boys, they are clearly in need of rest. Anyone who hasn’t started should start, with those in their final campaign filling the gaps and saying goodbye. Certainly for the other 30s this should be their last match. Lampard, Gerrard, lambert, jagielka. The likes of johnson, baines, foster, milner and may be even rooney should also be considered for early retirement. Quite frankly, there is a need now to move on. The remaining 14 are pretty much the future. The 2nd group of 5 should be kept around the squad until the newv pretenders are in place. If that is before the euros, great, if not then that should be their swansong.

    I would name a 33 man squad, for the next match, with 3 players for each position and a smattering of the oldies. But only those that are guaranteed starters, like rooney and baines.

  6. Watching Italy vs Costa Rica, watching Costa Rica play was like watching Arsenal play at times, i was impressed with the discipline of the team, the closing down and the work rate as a team at most times.

    I do not think the UK style of football can be forcefully changed, it has to change itself, gradually, like these sort of things tend to do, but there seems to be some wanting to prevent the change too.

    I see they will adapt, as teams in UK are already playing that way, and more will follow as these teams gain more success, and this will change all areas of UK football.

  7. Hope Jack, the OX AND Campbell play no part in tomorrow’s game.
    Let them start their hols a day early.

  8. Did anyone see the interviews with Mourinho who dropped news that he turned down England last time and would be interested in managing them?

  9. English footballers are crap,you need to look at the squads of the top 7 teams in d epl last season and see how many english players are in these squads.and because english players are crap,all the epl teams have suffered in d ucl since the fa introduced their home grown quota to epl teams.a player cant give what he doesnt many english players have won d epl player of d season since the millenium…rooney and dat season he wasnt as good as didier drogba.rooney was touted the white Pele just cos he scored a goal against arsenal as a 17yr old.which among you english men would prefer suarez to lead ur attack instead of rooney if it was possible.pure english hype,and thats what has killed english football.d epl isnt english football,not anymore.when wenger said he would rather sign a foreigner with greater talent for less money than sign an english man with less talent than the foreigner and cost 4 times as much,people criticised him.truth be told,english player are not dat talented and cost more.english football has to go back to the grassroots,cos thats wia boys develop their skill and talent,u dont coach talent into a player,u can only nuture d talent dats in a player.

  10. nicky
    The news is that Ox is still not fit enough to start, and Jack will most likely play the whole game. Campbell won’t be coming home yet as Costa are through to the nock outs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench as it would be a risk to play him in such a nothing match, and he deserves a rest.

  11. agree Nicky, their time will come, sooner rather than later if Steve G retires from England.
    Both need a soild injury free pre-season, as do all our players, some of who look to be going a long way in this competition. Glad for them, but for purely selfish Arsenalcentric reasons, wish that were not the case

  12. @franck

    The home grown quota was only introduced into the Premier League in season 2010/11. In relation to the CL it was introduced in 2005/6
    Since 2005/ 6 there have been 9 finals so 18 finalists. Of those 18 finalists 7 have been English, 4 German,5 Spanish 7 2 Italian.
    A main reason English /Welsh players cost so much is that the fill a HG slot. So in trying to help in one area the knock on cost impacts in another.
    I am all for the home grown/ non home grown quotas but the quotas are the wrong way around . It should be something 17 home grown and 8 non home grown. In addition , just like in the CL, around half of the home grown players should be required to have qualified as club trained players.

    I don’t accept that English players aren’t talented.

    Yes its a sound argument about the number of coaches and overall facilities at grass root level but at the very top level academies players are identified and trained at a very early age.The facilities are fantastic as is the number and quality of the coaches the issue for me is more about opportunity to play and therefore develop at the very highest level.

  13. Mike T

    If English players are unable to play because the best players from other leagues are coming in, surely they should be able to go abroad and play in their stead? How many English players play abroad?

    In fact, this will help English players improve since they’ll get away from the English leagues style of play which promotes a 100mph game rather than a controlled game. Which as we saw was the problem this time around, especially against Italy. A lot of the English players also have terrible ball control when put under pressure. This is because the English game doesn’t promote these qualities so much. everything is about running fast and getting stuck in.

    English players have been overpriced far before the quotas came in because of the premium placed on these same qualities (and the presumption that foreigners lack them)

    You can’t tell me that the English team would have performed much better if Arsenal had to hold on to players like Thomas, Sidwell, Gray, Bothroyd, Noble etc simply because of quotas. All those players received a great education. The same as Song, Fabregas, Gnabry etc. They just weren’t good enough to play for the first team then. They’ve still made good careers for themselves. But if they had an assured spot at Arsenal because of quotas they might even have developed less than they have. And would the likes of Ox have improved as much if he’d only played with players of that sort? Increasing quotas will reduce quality, not increase it. All it’ll increase is quantity.

    Players have plenty opportunity to play. If they are good enough. To say that they should have quotas to help them is such a defeatist attitude to take, and ultimately achieves the exact opposite of what it seeks to.

    There were no foreigners around pre mid 90s. The English didn’t do much better on the world stage.

    In fact the English have always had this poor attitude towards learning new ideas. The Danubian school of football grew up because the English hounded Hogan out of England for daring to try and coach players how to shoot. The refusal to participate in the early world cups. Blaming foreigners for diving. Blaming foreigners for stealing their jobs. It’s all part of the same culture. I’m not English, so I don’t care how they do, but their attitude towards the game stinks of self righteousness and a sense of entitlement. Until they admit there is a problem, they can’t even begin to solve it.

  14. Mike T

    But surely the whole point is there isn’t the pool of young players to choose from, and that in turn is due to the fact that we only have around ONE TENTH the amount of coaches as do the likes of Germany Spain and Italy.

    You say “I don’t accept that English players aren’t talented”

    Why don’t you?

    Where is your proof that it is otherwise?

    My contention is that if there was this pool of ‘talented’ young players out there for clubs to chose from, surely they would.

    As has been said, the limited English talent that is around costs a fortune.

    That being so, surely that’s incentive enough for every club to produce enough home grown English talent to fulfil it’s HOME GROWN quota.

    So why don’t they?


    Of course there are some, but nothing like enough.

    On a side note, when I was in my late teens I went to a tournament in Holland. We was all supposed to be of the same standard. Sunday morning premier league or thereabouts.

    I’m telling you the technical level of the guys we where up against was far far superior.

    This was back in about 1979/80 and I bet my bottom dollar not a thing has changed.

    Our mentality and investment at grass roots level is all wrong and has been since I’ve played and watched football.

    We was shite before the foreigners arrived and we are shite now. It has NOTHING to do with them.

  15. @ Shard: The english will never learn because their noses are in the air. How many times have you heard “we invented modern football”. so for them to learn from someone else is below their dignity. thing should have changed a long time ago. there was some article in the press about a quota system. i have experience of this and i start writing this down, it will go on or ever.

  16. Jambug,

    I remember with my youth team coming to England to play in a tournament. Mid 70ties.

    We played in our first match and we outplayed the first team with the ball completely. We created chance after chance, took the lead with two early goals and they looked clueless. Then came the answer: come on get in their face. And the English team did. We got kicked all over the place. And the ref? He did nothing. We should have had 2 or 3 penalties and he just laughed it away. There wasn’t a player of our team safe on the field. It got so bad that a few of our players retaliated and a fight almost broke out. The people from our club called us off the field and told the referee and the home club people that they would not allow the kids getting such a treatment.
    The answer from the English club was laughing at us and saying and singing: we won, we won, we won.

    Winning at all costs?
    The organising club organised a rematch with another referee, a decent one. We won again. We lost the final. They all were one head bigger than us and some two heads. I’m still not sure if they had the same age as we had at the time 😉 We were 12-13 years. Some of their players needed a shave 🙂 Seriously. Maybe you put something in the water in England but kids in Belgium don’t shave at that moment in their live 🙂

  17. By the way. In one of my next articles I will touch the subject on how English football could move forward.

  18. WalterBroekx

    Winning at all costs?

    Alas it was worse than that.

    Get pissed and laid at all costs was our motto.

    But seriously we took 2 squads. Each squad played in a 4 team ‘mini league’ of games lasting 15 minutes each half. We played 2 tournaments, one Saturday and one Sunday.

    Both squads finished 4th on both days.

    To be fair the refs where great.

    As for the players, well they could of quite easily took the piss but never was anything other than humble and sporting, although I’ve no doubt they had a laugh at our expense behind our backs. And who could blame them?

    As for us. Well, we was rightly embarrassed and left Holland somewhat humbled and hung over.

    Another aside.

    All during my playing days I always felt we Brits treated football, not as an art, but as a means to an end.

    And that was to get thirsty and then get down the pub.

  19. Gordon Strachan said something which I had considered before and thought makes sense. He said have got to stick to their style of play and make the most of that. And not try to copy these other sides that have talented players. I do agree with those saying English players lack talent; how many English players will take on a player and beat them? Not many. Other sides have players who are very comfortable on the ball, whose first instinct when receiving the ball isn’t to pass to another player in space, but will look to beat the next two or three players before looking for a pass. The football in the championship, is not exciting to watch (I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full championship match on telly) even though there’s lots of passion, primarily because there are fewer foreign players in that league, and therefore less flair.

  20. Meant to say Strachan said ‘England have got to stick to their style… ‘

    Why are final group games at the WC being played one after the other? Surely this can lead to manipulation of games/results?

  21. I will blame on the refereeing standards in th EPL. They dun protect players hence that encourage players spend lesser time to dribble and building technical abilities. There is no incentive for players to develop balls skill since they are not protected. Besides, since fouling is acceptable , why bother develop brains to unlock defence or make good passes. Since I am surprised when I saw English youth EPL teams playing in Far East , they still taught direct and sort of up and under tactics in modern passing game. Maybe it still works in England?

  22. Oh,ignore my 5:08 post, for some reason thought Brazil were in same group as Chile/Holland….guess it’s all the references to Brazil in this match’s commentary..

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